Japanese New Year

Culture Info

New Years is by far thw biggest holiday in Japan. While the official New Year falls on January 1str in actuality the season itself runs from the 31st of December to the 3rd of January .

At midnight on December 31st, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen. A major attraction is The Watched Night bell, in Tokyo. Japanese believe that the ringing of bells can rid off their sins during the previous year. After they are done ringing the bells, they celebrate and feast on soba noodles.

Awakening before sunrise is also considered important, as viewing the first sunrise of the year is thought to be a good and proper start for the New Year. Again, the T.V. networks which have been broadcasting continuously throughout the night, show pictures of the first sunrise breaking at various locations in Japan.


I will be bringing 2012 in at Chion-in Temple. But by bringing I think it means standing out in the cold too far away to see any real action.

Chionin Temple was built in 1234 on the site where Honen fasted to death in 1212. Due to earthquakes and fires, most of the present buildings date from the 17th century.

In October 2002, Chion-in Temple was used in the filming of the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai. It was standing in for Edo Castle.

The entrance to Chionin is through the two-storySan-mon (main gate) and then up a steep flight of stairs. Standing at 79 feet (24 meters) tall, this is Japan’s largest temple gate. It was built in 1619 and has been designated a Japanese National Treasure.

The gate is a fitting introduction to the expansivetemple complex of Chionin, one of the largest in Japan and an important religious headquarters. At one time, the complex had 21 buildings. Because of fires and earthquakes, the oldest standing buildings are the Hon-do (Main Hall, 1633) and the Daihojo (Abbots’ Quarters, 1639).

Chionin’s temple bell (cast in 1633) is the heaviest in Japan, at 74 tons. It takes 17 monks to ring it at the New Year ceremony.

The Main Hall is also huge; it can hold 3,000 people. The corridor behind the Main Hall, which leads to the Assembly Hall, is an uguisu-bari (nightingale floor). This type of floor is constructed to “sing” at every footstep to warn the monks of intruders. You can walk underneath the corridor to examine the way the boards and nails are placed to create this inventive burglar alarm.

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